Vivienne ‘Viv’ Armstrong was born on April 12, 1947, in Knoxville, Tennessee. While attending nursing school in San Francisco, she became active with the Daughters of Bilitis, America’s first lesbian rights organization.
Louise Young was born on July 18, 1947, in Ada, Oklahoma. She studied geography at East Central University, then enrolled for a doctoral program at the University of Colorado. It was in Colorado, in 1971, that Louise and Viv met at a Gay Liberation Front event, setting the stage for an adventurous, generous partnership between two women of incredible strength, insight, and determination.

In 1977 Louise and Viv moved to Dallas for Louise’s new job at Texas Instruments Inc. Viv began working for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) while earning her Master’s degree in nursing. Louise and Viv soon became a ‘power couple’ in local and state politics. In 1984, Louise became the first openly LGBT person elected to the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee. Louise and Viv risked their jobs to appear together as a couple on the local PBS channel KERA, and later helped Democratic Congressman Jim Mattox win the 1978 election, sparking national discussions about the power of the gay vote.

Louise pioneered workplace equality while at Texas Instruments and, later, at Raytheon. In 1996, she created a mathematical formula to estimate the cost of an inequitable workplace, demonstrating that companies with non-discrimination policies enjoyed higher productivity from their employees. For her part, during the 1980s, Vivienne spearheaded the VNA’s efforts to fund HIV/AIDS education and care. She also served on state and county councils for HIV care, striving to make sure needed services were available. 

Louise and Viv were one of the very few couples whom OUTWORDS interviewed together, sitting side by side, because it seemed simply impossible to capture their interwoven stories and rich relationship in separate interviews. We sat down at their serene Dallas home on a comfortable early summer day in 2017.
Mason Funk: That's fine too, that's fine too. So let's just get started by having the first of you ... Do you have a question?
Vivienne Armstrong: No.
Mason Funk: Oh, I thought you were going to ask me a question.
Vivienne Armstrong: Nope.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] I'm going to have you start and introduce yourself. Spell out your name, as you would want it to appear on the screen. And then why don't you just go straight to and tell me your birth date and your place of birth.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, okay.
Mason Funk: And then you can do the same, Louise. And then will start with the questions [inaudible 00:00:37]
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, okay. Hi, Vivienne Armstrong, or Viv. And that's spelled V-I-V-I-E-N-N-E and my last name is Armstrong. And my date of birth is four, twelve, forty-seven. And I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Mason Funk: Okay. And how about you Louise?
Louise Young: [00:01:00] I'm Louise Young. And spelled L-O-U-I-S- E Y-O-U-N-G. I was born in Ada, Oklahoma.
Mason Funk: And what was your birth date?
Louise Young: My birth date is July 18th, 1947.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. So I'm going to start with you, Viv. Regarding your childhood, you described you were an only child.
Vivienne Armstrong: No, that's her.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Oh, okay, I got that confused.
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah.
Mason Funk: But you were what you called an FLK.
Vivienne Armstrong: Yes.
Mason Funk: So tell me a bit about your childhood and how you felt like a funny, a FLK. Tell us what that means.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:02:00] Yeah. Well, actually I was, FLK is a term that I learned way into my adulthood but I realized it really did fit me. And is that I'm that redheaded, ginger haired, kind of a kid, with a little bit of bucky teeth and lots of freckles. We moved, my family moved due to varying circumstances about every two years it seemed like so that finally when I got to high school and I spent three years in one place, I thought that was great.
[00:02:30] But the predominant hair color and eye color is brown. And so a redhead really does stand out. And when you're a little gawky looking kind of thing, you're a funny looking kid, an FLK. When you are the new kid on the block, the new kid going to school every couple of years, and kids are having relationships that they've established since they started kindergarten or first grade. It gets really kind of tough. And a few times that ended up, I had a kind of... I was bullied by kids, the mean girls in the eighth grade, and that. So I had to really learn how to stand up for myself, and that. So I kind of know what it's like to feel excluded. And I also know how to kind of include myself and work with other people.
Amy Bench: [00:03:00] We should touch [inaudible 00:03:02].
Mason Funk: Okay, that's all right. And what was your family, you said they moved around a lot. What was, who else was in your family. And I always like to ask people like, what were the family values?
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:03:30] Right. Well, actually I had kind of a smaller family as a whole. I had two sisters that are younger than me. One's four years younger and the other is about eight years younger than I am. My mother married right after, at the end of the war she met my dad through the USO. My sister and I were born in the 1947 and 50. Then she divorced a couple of years later and she was close to her parents. She had one brother, is my uncle. And actually he was gay, but nobody talked about it.
[00:04:00] But, then she remarried and my stepfather was from the North East, Northeastern Pennsylvania. And what happened was I had a younger sister, Patty. At that point we moved several different times. We moved to California from the East coast; that was a biggie. And that was like in 59. So there were a lot of different changes in our family and that type of thing. Then later my mom became a single parent because she divorced again.
Divorce back in 1952 was very much of a stigma. So I even had to change my name. I had to use my stepfather's name even though he didn't adopt me because my mother didn't want the stigma of not having a family. So here I was once again, the funny looking kid. Everybody else was a brunette and here's this redhead, and with a stepfather who obviously couldn't have fathered me.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Vivienne Armstrong: Ah.
Mason Funk: Ha, interesting.
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] Just one sec here. I wonder if we can question you just push in just a slight bit so we.
Amy Bench: Okay. And we'll move their photo into [inaudible 00:05:07]
Vivienne Armstrong: I didn't use to talk like this until I met Louise.
Mason Funk: Tell me more about that.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh yeah.
Amy Bench: Can you start again because I just hit record.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:05:30] Oh, okay. I didn't used to talk like this until I met Louise. Because even though I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, I barely learned much in the way of speaking before I moved to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and then out to California. So and then I... when I got out, first got out of school, nursing school and then I moved to Colorado. So when I met Louise in Colorado and she was from Oklahoma, and we moved to Oklahoma, no one understood me in Oklahoma. And she told me, slow down, and say y'all. Then the rest kind of came with time. So that's why I speak the way I do now.
Mason Funk: Aha.
Mason Funk: One more, one more -- one example of obviously how your lives have really melded.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:06:00] Oh yeah, right, yeah, yeah. You even change your speech pattern.
Mason Funk: Yeah, huh. Now, Louise, you were the one who was an only child.
Mason Funk: And it sounds like your parents had a strong influence on you. So tell me a bit about that.
Louise Young: [00:06:30] My parents had the strongest influence on me of anyone in my whole life. I was an only child, born in July of 1947, my father had just come home from the war. In fact, he was a lieutenant colonel, and he was in charge of an air base in England. And he stayed until the base turned over... he turned the base over the British. So he come home a little bit later. My mother was waiting for him in New York. And they drove their two cars back to Ada, Oklahoma.
[00:07:30] I knew nothing but love in my formative years. And it wasn't that my parents spoiled me, they just really enveloped me with love and caring. And I think more important than that, they urged me to make a difference in the world. And this was kind of mantra for them, from the time I was say, 10 or 11 year old, they would have these talks with me that said, "You've got to make a difference in the world. The world needs to change." And they had confidence in me that I could make some of those changes.
Mason Funk: How did they come by their attitude vis-a-vie making a difference in the world and the world needs to change. Like where did they get their values? Your parents. Say my parents.
Louise Young: [00:08:30] Yes. My parents I think gained their attitudes toward inclusion of different kinds of people. Different races of people, different economic strata of people, certainly my father's years in the Air Force prepared him for being sensitive to the needs of other races. And he was tasked with implementing President Truman's edict that African Americans were to be treated equally in the armed forces. Being a head of the air base he had a number of run ins with the enlisted staff who didn't want to be in the same bunks, in bunk houses and my father just let them know that this is an order, airman, and you're going to do it.
[00:10:00] This has just always been my father, and then my mother, I think just came of it somewhat naturally. My mother's a very bright person. She finished, came within, oh about four credit hours of graduating with a four year degree in mathematics. And she was a brilliant woman and she read just volumes and she was always reading. And she was open to the world; and she understood, she understood what was going on, say in the 50's and the 60's and she didn't like what she saw. And so they conveyed to me an urgency of being able to change the way the world treated people who were different.
They always said to me, "Louise, make a difference in the world. Use your life to make a difference in the world." I don't know how many times I heard that.
Mason Funk: [00:11:30] Now, Viv. Going to your question here. Now one of the things you mentioned in terms of people who are important. You mentioned I think some teachers and friends, and then you also said a counselor who listened to you.
Vivienne Armstrong: Right.
Mason Funk: And I sense that was a specific person. So I'm among these various people, I wonder if you can talk about that particular counselor. Who that was and why that was important to you.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:12:00] I ended up, kind of like realizing that I needed to grow and change. One of things I learned from my family is a little bit of dysfunctionality, and kind of went, "They're not doing the same thing other people are doing, I need some help to figure this out." And so I had another friend who was seeing a counselor and I thought, "Well, that's sounds like a good idea." And actually, I really went through family services in San Francisco for several years, and so I had actually had several counselors, so it wasn't just a counselor.
[00:12:30] But, I just kind of really worked through and really kind of grew up a little bit. I actually, in my mind, explored my sexuality and came up with like, “Nope I guess I'm not gay or whatever” I just... But it was all like a mental exercise and that. And I was questioning but it just happen right then.
[00:13:00] But I had always since early on in my life I had kind of said, "Well, I want to meet a lesbian." When I finally figured out who that was and that. But who will I sit down with? Figure that out.
But the counselor was very supportive in terms of, well, if you are you are, and stuff. But just being able to really kind of grow up. I had family that was pretty domineering and so I had to really kind of struggle to become more independent. And so that was good.
Mason Funk: [00:13:30] Okay. What years were those? When you had that in San Franciso, were you still a teenager? Were you already?
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, I was kind of a young adult. I graduated from high school. I had just turned 17 and so this was like probably when I was like 19, 20, 21 and through there.
Mason Funk: Now you both, oh, one more thing, Louise, about before when you get to Colorado. You told me about the integration of the schools...
Mason Funk: In... is it Ada or Adah?
Louise Young: Ada.
Mason Funk: [00:14:00] Ada. And in 1956.
Mason Funk: And you were kind of able to watch that process unfold and your father was on the school board.
Mason Funk: Can you, one of the beautiful things, at least that I enjoy about this project, is just social history. And this is a chapter in our nation's history that was obviously very filled with tension but also promise. And I wonder if you can just give us your account of what you remember from that period in 1956 when the schools there in Ada, what you called Little Dixie, were being integrated.
Louise Young: [00:14:30] What I recall about Ada, the atmosphere in Ada, in the mid-50's when the schools were being integrated and it was full integration by 1956, was the relatively peaceful transition that took place. My father was on the school board. I so wish that I had talked to him about what happened behind the closed doors at the superintendent's office. But I have a feeling that he exercised his leadership to ensure that the schools in Ada were going to be integrated without a lot of strife.
[00:16:00] I was of the age where the schools were integrated because there was an all black school that ran through the eighth grade. And then from the ninth grade on, it was going to be integrated, so. I was right there in that age group and I do not remember any incidents of our black students feeling like they were being picked on.
[00:16:30] I have a very close friend who's black, and she's my age and she was in the same grade as I. We still keep in touch. And she said that she was struck also by the fact that the Ada schools were integrated without much concern. But, I must say this, that although the school system was integrated peacefully, there were still so many remnants of blatant discrimination that I noticed when I was seven, eight, nine and ten. And I was very bewildered and really disgusted by them.
[00:18:00] For example, the black people in our town had to sit in the balcony at the movie theater. They couldn't sit down in the main floor. They had to sit in the balcony. Most of the restaurants had what they called, colored take-out windows. And lest there be any mistake of what those windows were, they were labeled, colored take-out. They could not get a meal if they went in, but they could take out food. I mean I remember that. And I asked my parents, "What is wrong with black people coming into the restaurant?" And they said, "Honey, there's nothing wrong with it." They said, "But that's the way it is and we're counting on those of you in the next generation to change it." Although I suspect my father did play a role, particularly in the schools.
[00:19:00] But it was very disheartening to walk in to Woolworths and see two drinking fountains, one had refrigerated, cold water that tasted so great on a summer day, and the other one was just kind of a ugly little spigot with water that wasn't cold because I sampled it too. And the bus station had Colored Waiting Room above the door. And I again, the signs were everywhere but somehow, I think the citizens, the majority of the citizens of Ada started rejecting this forced segregation. So by the time I was in college things were so much better.
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah, but you told me that your family was threatened with a cross burning for your friendship when you were playing tennis and stuff with your friend.
Louise Young: [00:20:30] Well, yeah, that's true. The friend I told you about, we sat together in a number of classes. We both liked books so we talked about books. And she wanted to learn how to play tennis and I knew how to play tennis. So we went to the courts and bounced the balls, and I taught her how to play tennis, and we had a great time. But, my parents got some anonymous phone calls saying, "Well, if this keeps up they'll be a cross burning in your yard." And my parents said, "Just go on and play tennis and we'll deal with it if it happens." And it never happened.
But the threat was there.
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] Wow. That makes it very real.
Louise Young: [00:22:00] It was and I'm glad that I've really kept in touch with my friend. Her name's Patricia and we have kept in touch over the years. And she said I was the first white person that ever set foot in their house. And I think this was about 1965.
Mason Funk: Quite a bit later, in other words when you were almost... Wow.
[00:22:30] Viv, I think when you talked about things that you wished you had, that you didn't have growing up, could you explain a bit more? I think you wished you had... Well, let me just ask you that; what were the things that you lacked? That you needed, when you were in those crucial adolescent years.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:23:00] Yeah. Well, I think I would of really like to have had maybe a parent who could understand how some of their rules and regulations, kept me from maturing and socializing some. Because I didn't get to do quite as much getting out and socializing. I could but there were always these limits and stuff that other people didn't have. In a way, without even knowing that I was going to be gay, I already felt really different because I got the...I was always told just because other people do it doesn't mean you get to do it or that it's right, or what have you and that. And so. I was always like that was the explanation for the fact that you're going to end up being different.
[00:24:00] And so that was difficult and that, but I wished that I would have had a mom more like the girl across the street had, when I was in high school. So I kind of borrowed her a little bit, and that. So that's kind of how that could be, but I took solace in books; read a lot and that's not a bad thing.
Mason Funk: Do you remember the kinds of things that you... any particularly valuable books to you or genre of books that made the biggest difference to you?
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:24:30] Oh, god. When we got together we had all the same, we had a lot of the same paperbacks and stuff like that. It was just amazing. Some were the classics, and then there was just general fiction and that. I loved anything that had to do with science and stuff so I just ate all that up. So it was kind of a broad mixture. I read everything. I mean if I was sitting at the table and there was a ketchup bottle I read the label.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I know that feeling. Cereal boxes.
Vivienne Armstrong: Yep.
Mason Funk: And how did you eventually make your way to your interest in nursing and getting to the University of Colorado. How did that happen?
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:25:00] I really don't know what prompted me to be interested in nursing because I wanted to be a nurse when I was yay high. And I was just one of those people that I knew what I wanted to do and that's what I was going to do. And it was interesting, I had my appendix out when I was a freshman in high school and it was right towards the end of the semester and my typing teacher was very concerned about my typing skill, and asked my mother, because she was worried about my make up at the time and everything. Was I going to have to type as a career? And my mother said, "No, she's going to be a nurse." And he says, "Oh, good." And that but I really always wanted to be a nurse, I bandaged up everything that I could find. I made crutches and the whole bit, that was my thing.
[00:26:00] And so I pursued it and like I said I graduated from high school when I was pretty young and so, I went to community college initially and then I went to a hospital school of nursing and graduated from there. Then when I met Louise, I went to get my bachelors and then on, and then ultimately my masters.
Mason Funk: So you were in Colorado at the University of Colorado.
Mason Funk: Were you still in there when you both met?
Vivienne Armstrong: Actually, I was working at the med center.
Mason Funk: So do me a favor and go back and say, what up, where I met Louise.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:26:30] Sure. When I met Louise. I had graduated from the hospital school of nursing and had a job at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. And I had actually, when I moved to Denver, had kept in touch with a woman in San Francisco who had cued me into the Ladders and the Daughters of Bilitis. So I was getting that magazine and I actually got in touch a couple of women who were there in Dallas who were trying to get some Daughters of Bilitis or something going there.
Louise Young: Denver, you mean?
Vivienne Armstrong: In Denver, excuse me. They both start with D.
Mason Funk: Uh huh, that's okay.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:27:00] And what happened was is that they were leaving and they had established a post office box. And so I ended up with the key to the post office box and Denver, Colorado for the Daughters of Bilitis back in 1969, fall of 69. And through that I ended up meeting students who were at the University of Colorado and so they were with the very nascent gay liberation front there so it was through one of the activities at the college that I ended up meeting Louise. Yeah.
Louise Young: That's right.
Vivienne Armstrong: And well, actually, not quite, I saw Louise and she saw me.
Mason Funk: Okay, so tell us about that part.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:28:00] Yeah. Well, actually as I know it... the interesting thing was that the university was having a World Fair's week that they have every year in the Spring. And they were having a panel on lesbianism but they were all men who were participating on the panel. And so the women in the gay liberation front said, "This cannot be." We went to the -- and I went along with them because we were all together to the university administration and said there would be civil disobedience and that they would not be able to have the panel, so they needed to make some changes.
[00:28:30] And I ended being one of the people who was selected to be on the panel. And afterwards Louise came up to the stage and was talking to other people that, and I noticed her and that but she never came and talked to me, and we had another planned activity later that day and I was walking to my car. You know how you can feel sometimes like you're being watched or something? Well, come to find out, much later, Louise said she was running tree to tree, following me across campus to see where I was going. And we got together and that. I said, "Oh, this the outfit you were wearing that day." So, we had already seen each other, it clicked, big time.
Louise Young: It did.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let me ask, you mentioned being aware by this point of the Ladder Magazine, being very important to the Daughters of Bilitis.
Mason Funk: [00:29:30] So how had you become, again, two such important pieces of the early lesbian rights movement
Mason Funk: How had you become aware of them and what did they mean to you at that time and mention them by name.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:30:00] Actually, there was a woman who became friends with a lot of my classmates when we were in nursing school, and she worked at the hospital there. She ended up coming out and telling different classmates that she was a lesbian. And so ended up she ended up taking a bunch of us to a bar, one time. It was kind of a little field trip and that. And so I kind of started talking to her more. And at first I didn't realize that she was, but she had been ill and she had a friend visit and I said, "Oh, well it's so nice that you have somebody helpful and caring for you." And all this other came out then about her being a lesbian and I was like, oh, whoa.
[00:31:00] Here's that person I wanted to talk to that I put on my little bucket list and that. And so we ended up with a very brief relationship there, very brief. And actually then when I was moving to Colorado she, like I said, helped me to say, well here's things that would be helpful for you. And so that's pretty much -- when you write letters back and forth but it was really that magazine and the contact and in actuality it turned out really well because later on, about a year later, I ended up going and meeting, actually Phyllis Lyon at their apartment when I was home on vacation one time and that. It was just a real lifesaver.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that more. Tell me about meeting Phyllis. Was she already with Del?
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, yeah.
Mason Funk: So tell me about that.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:31:30] But Del wasn't there but [crosstalk 00:31:27] well I was -- I went to, I was home in San Francisco visiting my family. And I don't even really remember exactly how but I ended up getting the opportunity to, I don't know whether it was because of the DOB to go ahead and go to their apartment. It was Phyllis that was there and I was sort of astounded by the fact that there were ten million books everywhere. I mean it was like going to a library almost and that. She was just very supportive.
Vivienne Armstrong: She was just very supportive, and I just told her how much I appreciated getting the ladder and that, and kind of the fact that I had the mailbox, and that they're in Denver, and things were moving along. It was really neat, but she was with Del, but Del was not there at the time.
Louise Young: Yeah, they got together in 1953.
Mason Funk: Oh my goodness, okay.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:32:30] Yeah, and this was 1970, yeah, and that... So, I like that kind of touching history. Met Del Martin later, because she's visited this area, but it's just ... I like that reach back.
Mason Funk: Sure. Yeah. Actually, I have these items reversed in order, so let's go to this meeting with the gentleman who ended up being so influential on you, Guy Baldwin.
Mason Funk: Tell us that story. You're at the University of Colorado?
Louise Young: Yes. The spring semester of 1971, I had a teaching assistantship in the department of geography.
Mason Funk: I'm sorry, say at the University of Colorado. Just start over and just mention the University of Colorado.
Louise Young: [00:33:30] Okay. In the spring of '71, I was finishing my coursework for my doctorate at the University of Colorado, in geography. I was teaching a geography lab, and one of my students was my age, which, a lot of my students were almost my age. I was very young. I just went straight through my undergraduate to graduate career. At any rate, one of my students, whom I liked. Thought he was funny and witty, and just liked him. So, he asked me for coffee, and we went over to student union, sat down. Hadn't been there very long, and he said, "Are you gay?" And whoa. I was just dumbfounded. I, first, said, "No. Are you?" He said, "Yeah. Yeah, I am." I said, "Well, maybe I am."
[00:35:00] No one had ever confronted me with the choice to say or to hide. Not to be or not ... Not to be a lesbian, because I was. There wasn't no choice there, but to express to him that I was, and I said, "I think I may be gay." And he said, "Well, there's a group of us on campus called the Gay Liberation Front, and we'd really like you to join the group and get involved." I said, "Well, that sounds great." It was the furthest thing from my mind until that very day, but then, I just decided that yeah, this is me. This was me. So, I got involved. I started going to their meetings, and I think more importantly, I volunteered to go out on speaking engagements. That was, I think, the most important activity that the group was doing, that they would go out and ... They had lots of requests for speakers, both within the university and within the Boulder community.
[00:37:00] Guy and I went to speak to a rotary club there in Boulder, and this was March of 1971, and holy cow. I'm sure that Guy and I were the first gay and lesbian people that these men had ever seen. We just kind of gave a talk about what the organization was, and then we talked a little bit about our lives, and that was kind of what they wanted to hear. Interestingly enough, after that speaking engagement, one of the men wanted to have coffee with me, and he said, "Up until this point, I had feared that my son was gay, and I was so worried about his future." He said, "But now that I've heard you speak ... " He said, "Here you are, finishing your coursework for your doctorate, and you seem pretty well-adjusted and happy, and you said you were starting to date a woman, and that it might be serious, and you were planning ... Just like anybody else, perhaps this is the person I want to spend my life with." He said, "I can see that this is a possibility for my son, now." He said, "I've never thought it was."
[00:39:00] And he said, "You have made a difference to me." That's when I just sat back and realized I just heard the words of my parents at that moment, saying, "You've got to make a difference in the world." That, it was a very heavy feeling, to know that I could make a difference in this man's life, and it was a good difference. So, I was just hooked on whatever I could do to be an activist. I wanted to be visible, I wanted to be out. I did not want to hide, and that was about the time that I got a job offer to teach...
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] Let me interrupt you so we can kind of reset, and we'll start that story, because that's the story I want to... I know that at this point, you basically got a job teaching at your alma mater, and you went there together.
Mason Funk: Before we talk about what happened there, ultimately, I sense, from your questionnaire, that your family brought in Viv. You said they treated her as a second daughter [inaudible 00:40:13].
Louise Young: Oh yes.
Mason Funk: So, just tell me ... And you can both answer this question. Tell me the story about you getting the job, and you all deciding to move to Ada, and your family kind of taking in Viv as their second daughter.
Louise Young: Do you want to ...
Vivienne Armstrong: What?
Mason Funk: Yeah, maybe start, Viv, kind of from your perspective.
Mason Funk: Well, just tell us the story of your move to Ada.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:41:00] Actually, you know, when we were dating, that spring of '71, Louise ended up then getting the job offer to teach back in her alma mater there in Ada, Oklahoma, at East Central ... Now, it's University. Then, it was State College. That's where she'd gotten her undergrad, and she'd grown up in that town, and she had actually dreamed about teaching there when she was young. So, she was thrilled, and at the same time, though, she was saying, "Well, I've got this job offer and I want to know, would it be uprooting you to come?" Of course, I'm the person who's only lived a couple of years every place. I'm going, "Uproot me? I can get transplanted all the time, so I don't worry about that kind of thing anymore," and it's like, sure.
[00:41:30] We went down early in that summer, over Fourth of July weekend, and ... I guess it was a weekend, and visited. I had met her parents when they had come up to visit in Boulder, but we went down to Ada and I thought, oh boy, it's a little hot down here. But her parents were so welcoming. I mean, her dad came out the door and just said, "Hidee!" You know, in that way that folks do in Oklahoma and that, and they were just so welcoming and that to begin with. There was no consideration to do otherwise, and ...
Mason Funk: Did they know the nature of your relationship at this point?
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:42:30] Oh, heavens yeah. They gave us their bedroom, because they had a queen bed. Does that tell you something? Now that is love, okay. That is parents you know... Had better air conditioning in there, and it had a bigger bed, and they said, "Here. Have this room." That's the kind of people they were. They were very loving, very supportive, very kind. Her parents were so good to me in terms of welcoming and that that they knew that I wanted to go back to school, and that the college was starting a nursing program, and it did have a pathway for RNs to get their Bachelors, and that's what I wanted to do. I planned on working and going to school.
[00:43:00] Well, it wasn't really close to when it was time for enrollment that her parents sat me down and said, "We want you to go to school full-time," and this is their value for education, and that's how much it was. They said, "We'll help out if need be, but we really want you to go to school full-time." Then her mother said, "Well, now we need to go downtown and buy clothes," and her mother took me shopping. I mean, that's how it was, and here's this woman that's well-known in town with this other woman, and she's buying clothes for her, that young person. So, that was interesting too.
Amy Bench: We need to reset her mic.
Amy Bench: I need to fix that.
Mason Funk: Oh, okay. Your mic adjustment.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh. Did I do something?
Amy Bench: No, you didn't do anything.
Mason Funk: Oh, the cord just popped out.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh. Okay, so we'll ...
Mason Funk: Thank you for noticing that, you guys. You guys are doing so ... This is so great. You really [crosstalk 00:43:51].
Louise Young: Let's see. Mike, while you're up, there are some bottles of water on the kitchen counter.
Vivienne Armstrong: On the right hand-
Louise Young: [00:44:00] Do you see them there, to the right of the sink?
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah, the ones that have LY on ...
Mason Funk: I think the question I have ... That's a great story, by the way, of her taking you and shopping for clothes.
Mason Funk: Louise, did your parents never express any-
Amy Bench: Oh, I'm sorry. I see the water bottle ... I just noticed.
Vivienne Armstrong: Louise.
Louise Young: Ah. Okay.
Mason Funk: Over there.
Louise Young: Okay.
Amy Bench: There we go. Perfect.
Louise Young: How's that?
Mason Funk: That's perfect.
Amy Bench: Great. Thank you.
Louise Young: You can't see them now?
Amy Bench: Can't see them now.
Mason Funk: [00:44:30] Your parents had one child, and many parents might have felt oh, we only have one child; our daughter is a lesbian. What will become of her? She's going to have a hard life, she'll never give us grandchildren. I mean, other parents have had these kinds of reactions, but it doesn't sound like your parents did.
Louise Young: [00:45:00] I don't think my parents had a reaction to my telling them I was a lesbian that encompassed the feelings of loss of grandchildren; perhaps a more conventional life with a partner. I don't think they felt lost about that. As a matter of fact, once my mother told me that she was just as happy that I was with Vivienne than if I had married a man, and she said, "In a way, it's better, because I can relate to Vivienne more. She's a woman." That was really important. When we were living in Denver in the summer of '71, before moving back to Ada for the fall semester, my mother wrote me a wonderful letter and it said, in effect, "I hope you realize that Vivienne is just as welcome as anyone else that you would choose to spend your life with and want to be with." The fact that it was another woman was of no consequence to them.
Mason Funk: Great. Wow.
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah. Phenomenal, yeah. Phenomenal.
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] It's a very phenomenal story. Yeah. I mean, we've heard the gamut, needless to say, but that's one of the most remarkable at the positive end of the spectrum that I've heard.
Mason Funk: [00:47:30] Okay. So, there was a little bit of a gay scene in Oklahoma City, which ultimately got you guys into trouble. But I just want to paint a picture, briefly, about this era. You had bars, because again, you were eventually seen by someone in this bar in Oklahoma City, which caused some problems, but before we get to that, just give us a little snapshot of what life was like for a lesbian couple in Oklahoma in the early 1970s, early to mid-1970s.
Vivienne Armstrong: Living right across the street from the campus, yeah, so that, I mean, if one wanted privacy from students or whatever, it really wasn't there, because there was-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, I'm going to interrupt you. Tell me what you're talking about. So, we were-
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:48:00] We rented the downstairs of an old home that made into an upstairs-downstairs flat, and it was right across the street from the main classroom buildings, there off of main street, in Ada, Oklahoma. So, we ended up having two cats, and actually, we took care of the neighbor's dog, and all it took for us to go to a lot of our classes was to get up, walk down the steps, cross across the street and into the building, to the classrooms, and that's where her department was to teach. That was also where the tornado shelter was, and so we were right there in town. It was small, and so... But we'd take walks. Her parents only lived six blocks away.
[00:49:00] We would walk over to her parents' home, we would walk around the neighborhood and everything. We didn't hold hands in public during the daytime, but at night when we were walking, we'd kind of hold hands and walk around and stuff. So, we weren't totally... We were being cautious and that, but hot pants were the fashion of the day. I recall several times going to the faculty lounge with Louise and playing pool. That was kind of the densien of most of the male faculty members, not the female faculty, and I'm sure that was kind of to put in their face a little bit. But we were young, we were young. We were just 24, 25 years old, so we were living life and that, but then we went to ...
[00:50:00] We went around town and did all our errands and everything, and her parents were our best friends. They had a color TV, which we did not have, and so we often were over there to either watch the football games or watch the Saturday night movies, or what have you, and that. But then we did go up to Oklahoma City to the gay bars, and then, there was actually even a restaurant there at one point. So, we did that. It was a 90-mile roundtrip, so it took a little while to do that, so we did do it every weekend, but we liked to go out and dance and stuff. So, that was a good outlet for us.
Mason Funk: Was there, by chance, a bar that you remember in Oklahoma City called ... A lesbian bar called The Red ...
Amy Bench: [00:50:30] Can I lower the shades just a second?
Mason Funk: Sure, she's going to-
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah, the sun is... I was wondering when you were going to ...
Mason Funk: Okay. I'm looking at my list of questions, and I'm always aware that we'll probably have to kind of move things along a little bit. It's always a little frustrating.
Louise Young: Sure.
Mason Funk: But let's talk about the story of you guys being seen in a bar by someone from the college, or the university, and you ended up losing your job, Louise.
Louise Young: [00:51:00] Sometime in either 1973 or 1974, apparently, we were seen in one of the bars in Oklahoma City. We just liked to go out to dance. We were 25 years old and in love, and wanted to go just have an evening out. We, later, found out that was the reason for my not getting my contract renewed. I had taken a sabbatical to finish writing my doctoral dissertation, because I needed to be away from the college and all the distractions to be able to write it. So, I took one year off, was planning to come back and teach. So, at the end of that period, I was contacted by the college, who said they did not have a spot for me; enrollment was down. I talked to one of the geography instructors, who said, "Oh my gosh. The enrollment has gone through the roof. We're going to have to contract with someone to take some of the courses."
[00:52:30] Then we had an inside person who kind of knew the deans of the college, and found out that the contract wasn't renewed because of the student seeing us and going to the dean. Now, that really must have been an interesting conversation, because the student would have had to say why she was at the bar. Oh well. But I know, because we did, from time to time, see cars with bumper stickers and window stickers indicating they were students at East Central, and my car had the same. But you know, we just didn't want to hide. We wanted to have... We wanted to live our life fully, and fully meant going out and enjoying ourselves as a young couple would.
Vivienne Armstrong: If there had been a lesbian bar in Ada, I'm sure we would have gone to it.
Louise Young: [00:54:00] Yeah. So, anyway, I was terribly bitter over losing my job. I think the bitterness developed over time because I kept looking and looking and looking, and there just weren't any jobs to be had for someone with a PhD in geography.
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, your parents were also starting to have some decline in health.
Louise Young: Yes, indeed.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:54:30] So, that made it very difficult to not be able to go back to that town and be close to them.
Louise Young: [00:55:00] Yeah. That was a factor, and we were wanting to get back into the area. Finally, a breakthrough came when I called... I read this book called What Color is Your Parachute?, and it gave me some kind of unorthodox ways of job searching, and I made some cold calls to companies, and I managed to talk to someone who was looking for a land use geographer in his department to help do environmental impact studies. So, I didn't say yes the first time, because I thought I was getting a teaching job in Illinois, and that fell through.
[00:56:00] So, Vivienne had quit her job at the Cerebral Palsy Center of Denver to go to Illinois with me. Well, they asked, "Why are you going?" And she said, "Well, I guess you know Louise and I are together, and I'm going to go with her." Oh, they practically cried and embraced you, you know, and was like, "Oh, how can we do without you?" A week later, that job fell through. They hadn't filled a job at the Cerebral Palsy Center, and so Vivienne marches right back up, and it's like, hey, I can take my job. They hadn't found any-
Vivienne Armstrong: They didn't even look.
Louise Young: They hadn't even looked.
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:56:30] Because we were on summer break.
Louise Young: Yeah, what was the response?
Vivienne Armstrong: [00:57:00] Well, and not only that, but actually, the administrator and assistant administrator were the only people who didn't formally know, because we partied with all the rest of the staff all the time. So, they were the only ones who didn't formally know, and so it was no big deal. But then, when I went back in and said I wanted my job back, it had been only six days since I had resigned, I was told that they couldn't possibly do that because of my lifestyle. Lifestyle, I love that word. I tried to get the department ... Or, the secretary to come in to hear this, and they would not allow any witnesses or anything, and told me that my only recourse if I wanted to, because they were a United Way agency, that I could go to the United Way board. And actually, we went to the ACLU, and the ACLU said that they would take the case, and the only thing that kept that from going forward was the fact that then Louise did get a job here in Dallas and-
Louise Young: With Texas Instruments.
Vivienne Armstrong: And we moved here so that ... My having a job in Denver was not going to work.
Louise Young: [00:58:00] But, you know, I love the way you told the two administrators there at Cerebral Palsy Center … and said, "Well, I was a lesbian last week and you cried when I said I was going," and they said, "Well, we didn't know you were a lesbian." Anyway, so there we were in hot water, but in about two weeks, I got the offer from Texas Instruments, and that got us to Dallas.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Let me interrupt there, because this is going to be an important time to talk about, and we're going to talk about the professional work in a little bit here, but I want to ... Among those things I want to make sure I cover is this period of time in the mid-70s in Dallas and the formation of the Gay Dallas Political Caucus. Is that right? Did I get that right? Dallas Gay Political Caucus.
Mason Funk: Because this is obviously very important to Dallas history.
Mason Funk: [00:59:00] So, tell us about the formation of that organization, the different roles, and I'm just going to say, even though it's sometimes is... It's sometimes good to try to keep the answers as short as possible, just because we're going to try to cover a lot of territory.
Louise Young: Okay. All right. Well, let me give it a shot.
Vivienne Armstrong: Go.
Louise Young: [00:59:30] We moved to Dallas in the fall of '76, and we started going out to some of the bars, and we saw posters announcing meetings of the Dallas Gay Political Caucus. So, that really appealed to us, because we had been active, of course, in the Gay Liberation Front. So, we went to our first meeting in March of '77, and we became active almost immediately. By April, I was the ...
Vivienne Armstrong: Secretary.
Louise Young: [01:00:00] Secretary. By summertime, after we had our first retreat, in which we ... The board members drew up the goals and the vision and the structure of all the different committees, Vivienne was designated lead for political action. We had education, we had religion.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:00:30] Social justice.
Louise Young: [01:01:00] We had social justice, and then, overall community involvement. So, we did have a really great structure, and this came out of a weekend board meeting held at our home in June of 1977. The other thing that we had going for us, so to say, was Anita Bryant, because this was the time, late spring to early summer, that Anita Bryant was doing all of her, what we would now term, right wing political activities down in Florida, and she was responsible for getting the Dade County commissioners to reverse their non-discrimination policy that they had implemented.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:02:00] Yeah. And then, actually, she came to Texas a couple of times. She came to Brownwood, which is southwest of Fort Worth, and we took out an ad in the Brownwood paper, a full-page ad, to put a presence there that she was against our rights. She also sang at the Texas Bar Association in Houston, and there was a huge march down there, and lots of Dallasites went to that.
Louise Young: [01:02:30] Buses, planes. 13,000 people marched through the streets of Houston that night, and there were some gay lawyers that were inside, hearing her sing the national anthem, and they said they could hear us clearly from the streets. So, that's kind of the out-of-the-closets-and-into-the-streets for the first time in Texas.
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, she really increased our participation with the groups. We went from having, say, 60 people at a meeting to having 250 people. Those were people who wanted to do something, and they were put to work. We had organization committees, and they all went to work.
Louise Young: [01:03:00] Interestingly enough, we did a lot of what you would think of kind of mainstream political activities. Writing letters to our members of Congress, and at that time, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was the active lobbyist, because the Human Rights Campaign wasn't founded until 1980. There was a precursor to that organization, called the Gay Rights National Lobby that was started by a Minnesotan named Steven Dean, and I was on that board. At any rate, just to give you the idea of the time in which we were operating, we wrote our letters with carbon paper to copy to send to ...
Louise Young: [01:04:30] To send to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. That we had no computer, we had none of the tools. We just had people power, so we did with what we had, and that is when we started registering voters. Very important.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:05:00] Right, well and going to Democratic political, we figured Democrats would be more favorable to them, and actually had a local congressman at the time and his aide run from us. I mean we could not keep up. They ran away. They did not want to talk with us. But we did meet some people who were willing to talk with us. I mean, they were the first open gay, lesbian people that they had actually met, but they listened and were receptive, and we established ties. Became ... had a good working relationship with folks that just grew and grew.
Louise Young: [01:05:30] And the key to this was the fact that we could deliver volunteers, because this was back in the day where you needed, a campaign needed a lot of hands-on labor. Build the yard signs, do the mail-outs, that kind of thing. We could provide that, and that really got us in with the Democratic politics, both in Dallas and Texas. And we've never looked back.
Mason Funk: [01:06:00] Hang on for a second, just because I want to highlight that a little bit. It was a kind of a tit for tat, it was you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours, because you could provide some of the volunteers they needed for their campaign, is that what you're saying?
Louise Young: [01:06:30] Yes. And it was a kind of relationship of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours because we provided the volunteers, but the officeholders or prospective officeholders would agree to treat us fairly, and they realized that that wasn't such a big ask.
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, and the other thing is, is that their opponents in a couple of instances were absolutely rabidly anti-gay. And so ...
Louise Young: It was easy.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:07:00] It was an easy choice for us all to work together to try and get the candidate elected. But I mean, we silk-screened yard signs and hung them on clotheslines. You know, before you nailed them on the stakes, before you took them out and put them out. I mean, we had lots of people working in campaigns doing a lot of grunt work.
Louise Young: [01:07:30] Yeah, and that was the key. I once said, I don't know if it was a meeting when I was President, or to a Democratic officeholder, I said, "You know, if you can deliver 35 volunteers consistently, you can set the tone of a political campaign." And we did.
[01:08:00] So that, I think was a big turning point for the Dallas gay political movement, was the volunteers, and the voter registration that we did, and we would ask people when we registered them, "Would you be willing to receive information on candidates by election day?" Everyone wanted that.
[01:08:30] So then, we questioned the candidates as to their stand. We had standardized questionnaires. It wasn't anything outrageous, it was just basically, "Will you treat us fairly?"
[01:09:00] And so we got they're called push cards. We had the little push cards with candidates' name, and it's legal to take a card in with you to vote. And so that's what they did, and in several precincts, where a lot of our community was concentrated, we were able to turn those precincts from solid Republican to solid Democrat.
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, yeah. Especially for candidates that we wanted in primaries particularly, that was important.
Louise Young: [01:09:30] [01:10:00] Yes. And there was that one in 1978, when congressman, the late Jim Maddox, was a congressman. He went on to become attorney general of Texas, but he had a right-wing opponent, and it was election night. A very, very dramatic setting. Election night. All of the precincts were in except for Oak Lawn, which is the GLBTQ part of Dallas. Before 1978, that had been Republican area because there hadn't been a push to get our community registered.
[01:10:30] Well, well. You know, they were all crying in their tea, and I kind of strolled in and said, "What on earth are you worried about? You're going to win." And so Oak Lawn came in, carried for Jim Maddox. I think his brother squeezed me so tight, I just had to say, "Yikes."
And he said, "Your people did it. Your people did it."
Vivienne Armstrong: And actually, you know your not saying that you took a couple of months leave of absence from your job to work on the campaign.
Louise Young: [01:11:00] I did, I did. And the thing about it is, is it was written up in one of the Dallas papers, the now defunct afternoon paper, the Dallas Times Herald wrote a story saying that the victory was hinged on the change in the Oak Lawn precincts due to the involvement of the gay community.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:11:30] But we also got people to run and become precinct chairs to get involved that way. We also had resolutions to get people to go to their precinct conventions, and had resolutions that would then go through the state level and everything. We worked every angle that we could.
Louise Young: [01:12:00] And one of the resolutions was to get rid of the state sodomy law through legislative means, and if it got through as a resolution, it would go into the Democratic party platform. That was one of our original goals when we met in June at '77 retreat.
And eventually, that was-
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, it took 2003, and the Supreme Court to end up negating that.
Louise Young: [01:12:30] Yeah. Lawrence vs. Texas. So at any rate.
Mason Funk: I did make a note, I think, of that case.
Mason Funk: Baker versus Wade.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, Baker versus-
Louise Young: Yeah, now Baker versus Wade, do you want to?
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah. That was different.
Mason Funk: Start, okay, so start.
Vivienne Armstrong: Don Baker was there that infamous night in March of '71 when we went-
Louise Young: '77.
Vivienne Armstrong: '77, excuse me. When we went-
Mason Funk: Start over again.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:13:00] Don Baker was present at the meeting that ... our first meeting when we went to the Dallas gay political caucus in March of '77. We quickly became friends. He became a board member about the same time that you did, in June or July, or whatever it was. Don was a teacher and he was a good elementary school teacher, as a career. He was very much a man of faith. His parents had been Pentecostal, but he had grown away from that church and I think he was more episcopal in that, but very religious, spiritual. Very much believed in what we were doing with DGPC. Don ended up ... Some of the lawyers around the state and everything wanted to go ahead and do a suit against the state statute to see if we could go through the courts that way to get it done.
[01:14:00] Don ended up becoming the plaintiff. As a single man, it was a little more awkward because he was saying what he did in his bedroom was his own private thing and that was a violation of his right to privacy. That court case ended up Baker versus Wade, went through the fifth court of the US Supreme Circuit Court and the panel that heard it at first rejected it-
Louise Young: No, they overturned it.
Vivienne Armstrong: They overturned it.
Louise Young: A three judge panel.
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:15:00] Yeah, right, well that's because ... excuse, me I jumped one step. Judge Buchmeyer approved it, it went to the fifth court and they overturned it. It went to the Supreme Court, but the month before his case hit the Supreme Court, Bowers versus Hardwick had been decided so the Supreme Court did not take Don's case-
Louise Young: Because-
Vivienne Armstrong: Yeah, so they said they were too similar to do-
Louise Young: And then-
Vivienne Armstrong: [01:15:30] But, he was very courageous because at the same time, similar time, the superintendent of schools said that if there were gays teaching in Dallas school systems, that he would fire them. A couple of board members met with some of our board members to talk about this and at the time, Don was kind of in the closet, literally and figuratively because he was over there in the room. Finally, he just could not stand it anymore, the conversation going on in the room and he says, "The heck with it." And he came out, but he did interview for TV with a little bit of the camouflage silhouette type thing and that ... I mean, he risked his job, literally, to be able to fight this case and to be able to stand up. He was president, he became the third president of DGPC and he also brought first religious conference, to be able to have an outside speaker and be able to get religion to start to address issues regarding sexuality, gay and lesbian sexuality.
He was very much a leader in so many ways.
Louise Young: He was.
Mason Funk: He's no longer around?
Vivienne Armstrong: No, he passed away in 2000 from cancer. He battled it for seven years.
Mason Funk: Okay, well thank you for including that chapter. That's [crosstalk 01:16:48] as well. Okay, so where are we? I want to get to-
Speaker 10: Talked about ten minutes on the card.
Mason Funk: [01:17:00] Okay, let's keep going for a minute and then we'll just take a break in a minute. I want to start talking about the workplace advocacy, the HRC and this thing that I'd never really heard about. This guy named Grant-
Louise Young: Luckenbill.
Mason Funk: This gay and lesbian values syntax.
Mason Funk: I guess this has been one of your main areas of involvement for years?
Louise Young: [01:17:30] Right. About 1993, I started getting disillusioned with putting all my energy into politics because I mean the moral majority was running rampant, it just seemed like we were getting nowhere. I mean, we were making progress, but it was just painful. I started taking a look around at some companies who were starting to implement GLBTQ friendly workplace policies and that fascinated me because I realized that so much of our life is spent at work. That if the workplace could become a more comfortable place for our community, then we would be in turn, more productive for the company. Thereby, a terrific win, win situation and those are the things that really appeal to me.
[01:19:00] So, in 1993 I really turned my energy to workplace, almost entirely. My first effort was when I was still at Texas Instruments and we formed a gay and lesbian, we called it then Gay and Lesbian Political ... pardon me, Workplace group. We were not recognized by the TI diversity network, but we started working on gaining recognition. I was invited to come to the meetings and I think one key thing that happened at the first meeting, they were electing officers and several people knew me. Just knew me because I'd been at TI for a long time, but the position of secretary was a volunteer position and nobody likes to take notes and then publish them. Boy, my hand went up so fast because I realized that if I could become secretary and take excellent notes then that would catch the attention of all the people, not only on the diversity council, but other high up decision makes who read the notes and the secretary gets brought in on decisions too.
[01:21:00] It was a way to get on the inside really fast, you just have to be willing to take notes. At any rate, we started, we the group, started working for a non discrimination policy. We knew that we had to get a appointment, we had to get to the decision makers, that's the key. Finally, we met enough allies who were sympathetic, including the Texas Instruments Ethics Officer and he got us an appointment with one of the senior vice presidents. We had a hour long meeting with him. One thing that I did to prepare for that meeting was to construct what's called the productivity index. Through anecdotal evidence, I found that you lose up to 10 percent of an employee's productivity because they are worried about losing their job or not having the domestic partner benefits. It's something that's weighing on their mind where they can't concentrate fully on their job.
[01:23:00] You take that 10 percent of their time and you multiply it by the average salary at TI, then you use a very conservative number of GLBTQ and their parents too because they're distressed about it and you get millions of dollars lost. The figure was staggering, it was like 10 million dollars a year you're losing for not having these good policies. Boy did they perk up, wow. At any rate, it didn't take too long. I guess it took about a year of trying. That's where Vivian and I have always said, you have to be patient, in the movement it doesn't happen immediately. You've got to be patient and you have to just keep coming back and don't get discouraged and keep pushing.
Vivienne Armstrong: Don't let them forget you.
Louise Young: Don't let them forget you, so-
Mason Funk: Let me pause there because we probably need to switch out our tape. There's more to cover.
Louise Young: Then they're a couple of things I definitely want to get in and I know you do too.
Mason Funk: Yeah, don't forget.
Louise Young: I won't.
Mason Funk: We're going to record-
Speaker 10: Can we have her say the 10 million dollars line again?
Mason Funk: Say that line again?
Speaker 10: [01:24:30] Yeah, it was ... you multiplied it together and the figure ended up being-
Louise Young: Do you want me to just go over them?
Speaker 10: Just that, yeah.
Louise Young: Alright.
Mason Funk: To me.
Louise Young: [01:25:00] Well, one thing that I devised was a tool that I called the Productivity Index. The purpose of it was to measure the dollars lost by the corporation for not having progressive policies that both protect LGBTQ employees and give them equal benefits. Through anecdotal evidence, talking to members of the community, I've come up with a figure of 10 percent of their time was spent worrying about, "Will I be discriminated against?" That was the biggy. Or, "I need medical coverage for my loved one." That was another one. Anyway, 10 percent of their time was not focused on their job, it was focused on worrying about that. Alright, 10 percent of their time, well what's their salary? Took the average salary at Texas Instruments then I took a very conservative number of people at TI who are LGBTQ and their parents because some of them had the same worries, I came up with three percent.
[01:26:30] You multiply those things out by the number of people at TI and you get about 10 million dollars a year. That got the attention of the decision makers.
Vivienne Armstrong: When you say parents, you meant parents of LGBT young people?
Louise Young: Yes, who would worry about these things for their children. Oh boy, did people stand up and salute that.
Mason Funk: Money talks.
Mason Funk: Good, is that?
Speaker 10: [01:27:00] That was great. Should we do room tones?
Mason Funk: Yeah, we're going to record 30 seconds of this room with nobody talking and then we'll cut.
Mason Funk: [01:28:00] Okay. Talk about your [inaudible 01:27:39]. Okay, so again, interest of time, I encourage you to keep your answers relatively concise. There are things we need to talk about, I really want to cover the importance of what you did at TI to how this idea sort of spread. The idea, I don't want to fail to mention this, a gay and lesbian values index that you sort of brought and eventually we ended up with this logo. The companies strive to have our incorporate website on their publishes. That's a lot of ground to cover.
Louise Young: I can cover it really quickly.
Vivienne Armstrong: Then she's got to kind of transition from TI to Raytheon too.
Vivienne Armstrong: Boom, boom, boom.
Louise Young: [01:28:30] My involvement in the HRC business council was something that I was thrilled about. I was thrilled to be asked by Elizabeth Birch, the then president of HRC, 1997. To join a newly established business council that would advise the boards of HRC about business matters, in terms of strategies and this kind of thing. I was first female co-chair and I shared co-chair with a gentleman named Jim Bryson who was a retired insurance executive from Philadelphia. It had been brought to the attention of HRC that a Wall Street activist named Grant Luckenbill had a gay and lesbian values index and it didn't measure all of the things that HRC wanted to measure, but Grant was willing to sell it to HRC.
[01:30:30] I know that Jim and I, in our leadership positions, urged HRC to purchase it, do it because it was our thought that for the largest GLBTQ organization in the country to have this index is going to have so much more power and ability to reach so many more corporations. In 2002 and I believe, HRC published their first corporate equality index. They changed some of the questions, but they did publish it. I think there were only 17 companies at the time that scored 100 percent and we measured things like non discrimination policies, good company policies like when you move, can you domestic partner be part of the move? Recreation associations, dental, adoption services that they help, all that kind of thing.
[01:32:00] I told the HRC leaders that the time that I thought this was going to be, by far, the biggest contribution of the business council. Was pushing to get companies willing to be part of it.
Mason Funk: [01:32:30] How did you go from companies, basically once upon a time, not caring whether they had a 100 percent rating from the HRC to caring? How do you make a big corporation care? You started with 17 and now there's probably hundreds.
Louise Young: There're hundreds.
Mason Funk: How do you effect that? How do you make the companies care?
Louise Young: [01:33:00] Oh, well, I'll tell you what, that was one thing. Those of us on the business council who had been really immersed in corporate America had a lot of insight. We knew what made those decision makers tick and it was called competition. Particularly if a company in an index sector, let's say food. If one well known company scores a 100 percent and advertises it, then these other companies, they want to have 100 percent too because they don't want their CEO to be at a meeting and be told, "Well, I noticed you only scored 20 percent." It's the competitive nature of the decision makers, the leaders of corporate America who wanted to achieve laurels, no matter what those were. A big laurel was the 100 percent rating by the Human Rights Campaign.
[01:34:30] I urged my company, Raytheon, by then. By 1997, TI had sold its defense business to Raytheon and I went with it. I knew that if Raytheon could be the first defense and electronics aerospace company to score 100 percent that every time another aerospace company did it, they'd always mention Raytheon was the first. Now, I convinced ... because then I had some access to some of the decision makers, I said, "Here's what's going to happen folks, we're going to keep on getting publicity if we're first." Well, that really ... yes.
Vivienne Armstrong: It played out.
Louise Young: [01:35:30] Yep, I'll tell you what, the board added transgender protection. At that time, this was 2005, having a non discrimination policy that protected transgender workers plus I think there were two out of five benefits, mental health,
Louise Young: [01:36:30] Prescriptions, and a couple of others. Anyway, for trans employees, if you had two of the five. We had two of the five, and they passed the non-discrimination policy. We got to be first. Now, Northrop Grumman got to second, and they're about a month late, and I knew they were working on it. Boy, our CEO Bill Swanson was so proud. They put it on the company website. It was a big story on the intercompany website. Big. It's the competitive nature.
[01:37:00] And the other thing that I think I contributed was the idea of a logo, or a bug, or seal of approval. I said in one of the meetings, and I don't know... It was around 2005. I said, "Folks, we need HRC's graphic arts department to design a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for the hundred percenters. They're allowed to use it in their advertising, however they want. But they have to use it the way you draw it." It was very tastefully done, and even today, we see it in magazines. There it is. And it goes back to that meeting where I held up my hand and said, "We need this."
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] Excellent. That's great. That's great. Fantastic. I love all that. Now, I want to switch gears because something else happened in our community that obviously was huge, which was the AIDS epidemic.
Mason Funk: And so, talking about different people's roles, and I know this was certainly one of your biggest... When that crisis broke, you were perfectly positioned to be tremendously helpful.
Mason Funk: Can you talk about that?
Louise Young: [01:38:30] It was really personal in so many ways. We had friends--
Mason Funk: So start by just setting the table. [crosstalk 01:38:33] Tell me when you first heard, for example.
Louise Young: [01:39:00] Well, actually, we started seeing things in our local publications back in '82 and '83. Things were happening, especially in New York and nobody knew what the virus was, and then they were calling it grid immune deficiency. And hearing that. We started to experience people here in Dallas becoming ill, and that was about the time that the virus was being sort of discovered. About '84, Mike Richards with the Now Resource Center that was getting going ... it was part of, actually, DGA, which changed to Dallas Gay Alliance ... At the time, was wanting to get a food bank going, and some other things, a hotline for people for information. He and a nurse who was with the health department, and a couple of other people who were doing home care and I met to talk about what all we could do. That was back about '84, and we had intermittent meetings during that time frame. In the Dallas community, the Interfaith folks started having care teams through their different church groups and everything, and I did some teaching there.
[01:40:30] And then when Ryan White funding came through, I got on the planning council for the county for helping with those funds. I was in a leadership position during that for like, about a nine-year period of time. V.N.A, I worked for the Visiting Nurse Association here, and so we had home health, we had hospice, we had Meals on Wheels. Initially, some of our first patients were coming through on hospice, and then we started to do home care. With home care, there was limited funds for people who didn't have insurance or Medicaid was very restrictive in terms of what they would authorize for people on home services. And so when Ryan White came along, and actually the state came along with a grant in '88 that helped to train one nurse, so we had nurse who could go. And that was just something really great. And actually, she reported to me, even though... At the time, and for almost 20 years, I was director of intake so that I had nurses who were out based at hospitals and there in the office to do referrals. But I could always do five other things in addition to my job.
[01:41:30] This was really a labor of love, and because I had the health background with masters in community health, and positioned in a community agency, positioned within our community, my personal, private, political life all came to bear. It was really a good time for being able to help our community, because it was so bad. We were losing our own personal friends and going through difficulties there. The money came in spurts, and it had to be reallocated from time to time because an epidemic doesn't know a straight line in terms of service needs and that.
[01:42:00] But we did innovative things, like people would go to Parkland or to the V.A. and they could get Ensure to help them with their nutrition. But how do you take a case of Ensure to home on a bus? So we worked it out with the Meals on Wheels people to be able to pick up that Ensure and be able to get the volunteer drivers who delivered Meals on Wheels to deliver that Ensure for those folks. And it was just little things like that. Being able to get them on Meals on Wheels. Being able to give them the amount of home care and aid services that they really need, because sometimes they need a lot more than what Medicare, if you had Medicare, but a lot of time what services were available under their insurances. So, it was really a great time to be where I was, and to be able to make that happen. And to be able to educate the people in home care, because they, too, also had the same lack of knowledge and stigma that HIV was pervasive for. We were able to help with that as well. That was just a very pivotal point in my life.
Mason Funk: [01:43:30] Talk us through what it was like in those days, say from the mid-80s to say the mid-90s, when everyone was just in mad scramble mode. You know, there was no cocktail. It was pre-cocktail. So, when everything was, we were reeling, we were back on our heels. And I can only imagine ... I was there, obviously, but from the point of view of a caregiver and an organizer of care. But also with this rapidly changing medical landscape, where we didn't know very well ... We didn't have an effective treatment yet.
Louise Young: Oh, yeah, I mean-
Mason Funk: What was that like for you?
Louise Young: [01:44:00] There were other nurses who, in desperation, set up a pentamidine mist clinic at the resource center back there, just to be able to allow people to get the treatments that they couldn't get from our public hospital. We had the Buyer's Club in Dallas, you know, they had the film about the Dallas Buyer's Club. People were very desperate for anything they could get, and trying to get that care for people, and particularly people who want to get cared for in their homes. To able to mobilize that, it was difficult because the treatments were always changing in terms of what was happening, what you needed, and where do you get the supplies. It wasn't like you could use, a lot of times, a commercial supplier that ... Supplies had to come from the public hospital, which made it even more difficult. Than if they were someone who had good insurance, because private companies, and there were a few that would take care of those folks. It was difficult, and some of the cases were just heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for the staff, just heartbreaking.
Mason Funk: Sorry. Just one second. Okay.
Louise Young: [01:45:00] Okay. When you see people's names pop up, and they're people that you know, you know they're coming on your service. That hits home, too. It was mad scramble, and people were calling all the time. A lot of times when you don't have answers and you're trying to figure out, what can we do if we don't have an answer? How can you make an answer? It was really a crazy time, and managing the money on the evenings and the weekends to be able to do all of that part of the grants management, and writing more applications and stuff, that was another whole side to things. Because none of that extra money came without a whole lot of strings and work. And a lot of meetings.
Mason Funk: Between the two of you, you can both answer this. What long-term effects for the LGBTQ community came out of the AIDS epidemic?
Louise Young: [01:46:00] I think that a kind of sense of, hey we know how to do something. We pull together the men, the women ... And men and women had always worked a little bit more in our community than in some other places in the country, but particularly here, the men and the women, everybody pitched in. And actually, some of the faith communities here in Dallas did a good job of volunteers, as well. That kind of knowledge is back there, and I think that particularly now it's going to be called upon for our seniors. And that's something that I'm working on now, is to be able to get senior care for LGBTQ more culturally competent.
Mason Funk: Tell us about that. That's a big issue. We were talking about that as well.
Louise Young: [01:47:00] Right. I actually just last week went to SAGE Train the Trainer in Chicago along with about 17 other individuals from around the country to be-
Mason Funk: Say that again. You said "Train the Trainer?"
Louise Young: Train the Trainer.
Mason Funk: So slow that down.
Louise Young: Okay. Train the trainer. That's where I was trained as a trainer.
Mason Funk: Start the story again.
Mason Funk: But when you say Train the Trainer, explain what that means. Say, "Just last week."
Louise Young: [01:47:30] Just last, I was in Chicago for a Train the Trainer, which is where I was trained to be a trainer, to able to go out and teach healthcare providers and social service agencies about cultural competence for caring for older LGBT because they go back in the closet. Their income is generally less than the regular, other seniors, and they're hesitant to access care because they're afraid of being discriminated against. In this particular climate, it just reinforces what they life experiences have been like in the '50s and '60s. And so, that's going to be another whole aspect of being able to have volunteers in our community just like we do with HIV, to the budding program. To be able to go and visit people to make sure that their care is being adequate, that they're not alone. It's a whole thing to be able to have senior services available in our community.
Mason Funk: Tell me again why that's important... Especially relevant right now. And when you say culturally competent, that may be a familiar term to you-
Louise Young: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
Mason Funk: [01:48:30] But imagine the reader... The listener doesn't necessarily know what that means. So tell us why it's important to have what you would call appropriate or culturally competent care for LGBTQ seniors at this particular time.
Louise Young: Seniors today grew up in the '40s, the '50s-
Mason Funk: Say "LGBTQ"-
Louise Young: [01:49:00] Okay, LGBTQ seniors who grew up... Who are seniors today, who are in their 70s and their 80s, grew up in a time in the '50s and the '60s when people's job discrimination was very much there. Joe McCarthy was having hearings on everything in Washington. You could be arrested if you went out to bars. There was discrimination for job loss, everything. All of that discrimination, even if a person has been out of the closet and living a little bit more openly during these more recent years, as you get older and you get more frail and you're needing to have services from other people ... Everybody hears stories about people discriminating against them and they wonder, "Is someone coming into my home? Or, if I have to go live in another residential community, are they going to discriminate against me there?"
[01:50:00] And so it starts with everything from intake all the way through. They have to come out of the closet again and again, and can they really trust someone to do that? If they don't come out of the closet, they actually have failure to thrive and don't do well in those settings. Learning how to be able to be welcoming and inclusive in your healthcare for LGBTQ seniors is really important.
Mason Funk: Great. Perfect. That's just so important to have that explained as you just did.
Louise Young: And SAGE has these wonderful credentials now that they can give organizations who have the training.
Mason Funk: [01:50:30] Tell me that again, but tell me that and kind of compare that to how, back in the day, HRC created this wonderful ... It's kind of a cool parallel.
Louise Young: It is. It is.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Louise Young: SAGE-
Mason Funk: Tell me what SAGE is.
Louise Young: [01:51:00] I was just going to say, SAGE is Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, and they just use the "G," but it comes out SAGE, which is a nice word for older, wiser folks. They're based out of New York, and they started in '78. They have senior centers and a lot of different services there, but they've been expanding their programs throughout the country. To have trainers to be able to help other agencies to become more aware, more welcoming and inclusive in their environments of the services that they provide, and to be able to recognize that they do serve LGBT older adults. With that, they now have, if the agencies get training, based on the number of people and the level of training, they can get a bronze, a silver, a gold, or a platinum level credential, which they can use just like HRC did for the corporate equality index for the services that they provide.
Mason Funk: Very cool.
Louise Young: And so hopefully they'll be a little competition out there as well.
Mason Funk: Well, I love your emphasis on competition. That is part of the American way of the life.
Louise Young: It is.
Mason Funk: Appeals to people's innate sense of wanting to be the best.
Louise Young: [01:52:00] Yeah. And you can leverage it to... Our community should leverage it, and the trick is, do the younger people coming along know the tricks of the trade? And that's a contribution, I think, that we who are the first wave of activists should be teaching them.
Mason Funk: Yep. That's right. That's what this is all about.
Louise Young: [01:53:00] I wanted to bring up something. One of your questions talked about, you know, do you consider yourself an activist? I said, "I certainly did consider myself an activist." And it got me thinking about the 46 years that we have been together and you were involved in activism just a few months before me, so basically we've gone in tandem.
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah it's just-
Louise Young: You want to start over?
Mason Funk: Start over.
Louise Young: I'm so sorry. I was playing with the mic. Okay.
Mason Funk: [01:53:30] Just, you can start by saying, "Sometimes I wonder ... Sometimes some people ask us if we think of ourselves as activists."
Louise Young: [01:54:00] Yes. Sometimes, when people ask, are we activists? I wonder, but I don't wonder long, because I clearly believe we were activists. I believe we were part of the first wave of activists after Stonewall. We were part of a generation that really cared about changing the world. It's our generation that marched against Vietnam, who marched for civil rights, women's rights, and our own GLBT rights, then GLBTQ rights, most recently. The one thing that I sometimes stop and wonder why we are given so many accolades. Speaking most humbly, we do have a lot-
Louise Young: We've been recognized.
Louise Young: [01:55:30] Of honors. And we're grateful for all of those. It's with a sense of humility, but also within the last few days, I've been thinking about how people recently are saying, "Vivian and Louise, you're so courageous. You're so courageous." I got to thinking, we really were courageous because we both lost a job, and it could have been our whole career. In my case it was, my teaching career. We lost a job because of our wanting to live our life openly and not hide who we were. And then, after we suffered that loss of job, which is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person, we did it all again. We refused to go back in the closet. In fact, we were propelled even more out of the closet. But I guess what I'm saying is, when you have been through an experience, when you know the worst thing that could happen to you, and yet you turn around and do it all again because you believe so fervently in the cause, in the next generation, helping the next generation, that you would risk it again. And gladly so.
[01:58:00] I have come to an understanding, and we've talked about it, that it all goes back to losing it all and then instead of going back into the closet, we went out even further knowing, fully knowing, what terrible thing could happen to us. But we did it anyway, because we cared.
Louise Young: [01:58:30] Well, that and, I have a certain degree of faith in many human beings. Not all. I know that's not the case, but I really do think... And that's what's propelled me, is that when you talk to people and they get to know you. Sorry. When you talk to people and they get to know you, that we're just like everybody else. And I remember so many times speaking to so many groups and saying, "Look, our homosexual agenda here is going to the grocery store. It's cleaning the house. It's mowing the grass. It's the same as you guys. We got to get our laundry done, too. That is 90 percent of our lives. We don't spend any more time... Maybe a little less, maybe little bit more, than you do in a bedroom, and that's a private place. But other than that, our lives are the same." Once they start to see that, I really believe that when people get to know people, most people understand. They may not have a PhD in human sexuality, but they understand.
Louise Young: [01:59:30] And I think that coming out, and all the people who have come over the decades, has been the reason why we have made the progress that we had. Had that not happened, this progress would not have been made. We wouldn't have had marriage. We just wouldn't have had it. If everyone had stayed closeted, and that's the key, to come out. And the joy of seeing the change is indescribable. The changes that we have seen, we've been doing this nearly 50 years. The joy of seeing the changes-
Louise Young: [02:00:30] On a global way, but then also in an individual way. When you see someone finally come out, whether it's a parent coming out because they have a GLBT child, or themselves coming out at their work, coming out at their church. Wherever it is, when you see that change come over somebody like, "It's out there now. I can relax. I can really be me now." They enjoy life so much more. Even on the individual basis, not just the change that you see that happens in global ways, but individually it's worth everything.
Louise Young: It's worth all of the work that we've done over the years. It's worth it. People say, "Would you do it all over?" In a minute, I would do it.
Mason Funk: [02:01:30] I can't even tell you how inspiring that is, and how that fills me with joy, having you reflect that back to me. I have a question we've been hearing. We've been having some interesting conversations here in Texas, which is a culturally more conservative country.
Mason Funk: [02:02:00] About what it means to be "in your face." And some people have, here, there's a different barometer of what it means to be too in your face. What is respectful? And what is " in your face?" And I wondered if you could... You live here, you're not native Texans, but you've certainly lived here a long time. What's your take on the Texan way of bringing change that is both respectful and a little in your face? The right blend, if you could say that. I don't know. It's just a question.
Louise Young: [02:02:30] I think the thing is, just like when you're growing up your parents say, "Now's not the time to talk about it." You need to pick and choose. You need to pick and choose your people sometimes, you need to pick and choose the time and the place for serious conversations. Sometimes some folks have very deep-seated belief systems, and we're not trying to necessarily change their beliefs as much as want to change how they treat other people. And so, trying to get that across sometimes takes a little while for them to understand. We want ourselves and others to be treated fairly. We don't necessarily want to interfere with anything have to do with your church or your family, but we want you to understand that what you do and say does affect other people. We want your help to make your help to make the world a kinder, more welcoming place for everyone.
[02:03:30] It's a more gentle kind of approach to do that, and I think because people are very protective of their way of life and their belief systems, you've got to respect them and show them it's respected. The worst thing you can do is get there and pull out the Bible and start flipping pages, because that just doesn't work.
Louise Young: [02:04:00] And you know, I think there is a synergy between being in your face and this kinder, gentler approach, and we've used it very effectively, I think, in Dallas. There are parts of the community that do want to march, that do want to demonstrate, and I've been there. I've been part of that. But sometimes you need a smaller group to go into see the, let's say the office holders. It kind of gets to be this choice that the office holder has. Do you want to deal with these guys that are shouting outside your office, or would you like to deal with us? And thereby, both, and believe me, both parts of our community talk about this. I think it's a very effective dual approach. I really do. We have the people ready to go comfort them, and let's talk about it, but we're going to make the same points. We're just not going to yell about it. It's important to have the people who are passionate to be out in the streets, so I think both approaches work.
Mason Funk: [02:06:00] That's what I've been hearing. That's been really fascinating for me, hearing that from a variety of people. Working inside and outside the system simultaneously.
Louise Young: I'm going to tell you a quick story. There was one demonstration that we held down at City Hall, and it was right about the time that... Was it the marriage?
Louise Young: Yeah, somewhere in there.
Louise Young: [02:06:30] It was in the middle of the marriage fight. We were part of a demonstration that was advocating for gay marriage and same-sex marriage. I asked to speak, and I noticed one of our fellow demonstrators had brought along an American flag. I said, "Come here. On the podium with me." And I said, "We're Americans." My speech was basically, "We're Americans, too, and we care about this country." And of course the TV cameras are there, and I said, "I think we need to take a moment and say the Pledge of Allegiance." We all did. We pledge allegiance to the flag. Meanwhile, across the street, were the antis and their little tacky signs, and their pitiful little chants, and I closed my remarks after we’ve pledged allegiance to the flag.
Louise Young: [02:08:30] I said, "You know, those people want to engage with us and they want to have a verbal bite." I said, "You know what we're going to do? We're going to ignore them. We're going to laugh and wave goodbye as we go home." That's what everybody did and it completely deflated the counter demonstrators.
Mason Funk: This is the moment when I ask Amy, who has been having to listen to all of this without asking questions that I know she has. She may have a few questions and I just ask you to respond to me as I have.
Amy Bench: [02:09:00] There's... this is kind of a tiny point, so I don't know if how... You had mentioned two magazines from your early days, I guess when you moved to Denver you worked on the staff... Can you just talk about because I don't know about them, I would like-
Louise Young: The Ladder?
Amy Bench: The Ladder and the other.
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, the other was the organization.
Amy Bench: You want to just explain what that is and how important that was? Was that revolutionary at the time?
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, heavens yes.
Mason Funk: Tell me about The Ladder and then the Daughters Of Bilitis.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:09:30] The Ladder was a lesbian magazine that was sent out, I think it was bi-monthly. It had a couple of photographs, but it had a lot of short stories, poetry, and essays.
Mason Funk: I'm sorry, I was pointing to me so you would talk to me.
Vivienne Armstrong: Oh, okay. I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: Just start again-
Vivienne Armstrong: Sorry.
Mason Funk: I felt your gaze was going towards-
Vivienne Armstrong: My gaze was too much, I got you.
Mason Funk: Here we go, okay.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:10:00] The Ladder was a magazine that was published on a bi-monthly basis. It was sent in a plain brown wrapper with no identifying material on the outside. It was eight by five. It was poetry, essays, and short stories. Actually, some really good writing in those. There were some really good people who wrote for that. It was geared for lesbians and you couldn't find anything like that out there in the world. They didn't have it in libraries. They didn't have it in bookstores and it was a way to kind of keep in touch. It was mailed throughout the country, primarily to members of the Daughters Of Bilitis, which was a lesbian organization that was founded back in the early 50s.
[02:11:00] It's membership was primarily a mail in membership of course, a correspondence membership with a couple of local chapters where they could really meet in larger cities. It was a way that the women could actually end up finding out about themselves, keeping in touch, and having a little bit of culture.
Mason Funk: Great, perfect.
Amy Bench: When did that magazine start and how did you find out about it?
Vivienne Armstrong: I believe it started about '52-
Mason Funk: You were saying The Ladder?
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:11:30] Yeah, the magazine The Ladder, I believe started in '52. I could be wrong about that, but it was early 50's. I found out about it through the lesbian that I had met when I was graduating from nursing school in San Francisco and she gave me the information to be able to subscribe myself when I was in Denver. I was so grateful because I didn't know anybody when I moved to Denver except for one classmate who... actually as it turned out, when I told her I was a lesbian six months later, she asked me to move out the following week. I had known her for nearly four years at that point, so very difficult situation there. That magazine was very, very helpful.
Louise Young: [02:12:30] Bilitis is a Greek name and there was a Greek poetess named Sappho that wrote love songs to women, especially one woman and that was her loved Bilitis, hence the name the Daughters Of Bilitis.
Vivienne Armstrong: Which, when you go to the post office in Ada, Oklahoma, we just said it was a poetry group.
Amy Bench: [02:13:00] That's great. I see there's several pictures of you ladies with Ann Richards, can you talk about your relationship with her, what you were working on with her, and what kind of person she was, just in short.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:13:30] Ann Richards was an iconic Texas political figure. She was married, raised family, become divorced, lived in Dallas, and had many other women friends that worked on different projects. She then moved to Austin, she was first a council person in Austin.
Louise Young: County Commissioner.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:14:00] Oh, County Commissioner, excuse me. Then became State Treasurer and then ran for Governorship in 1990. That was a glorious day because her policies were much more progressive and she's very much an activist type person and very open to letting people work with her and was almost populist, but not quite. Her sayings are the ones that at the National Convention... When she said George Bush was born with a silver spoon and a silver foot in his mouth, was just very iconic. She said stuff like that all the time. She had such a wit. She was real and she was one of the people who when we were going to International Women's Day down in Houston, when were participating in Democratic things, she was very open to the support that she had from the LGBT community as well as from women, all the other ethnic and labor groups, and stuff like that.
[02:15:00] she worked well with people. We had a couple opportunities to meet with her in Austin as well, like I said, during different party activities. She loved Louise's hair.
Louise Young: Yeah, she loved my hair.
Vivienne Armstrong: In fact, when Louise changed her hairstyle from being a little more down to up like this, she wanted... Ann had hair, she was known for her hair, but she wanted to pet Louise's hair.
Louise Young: She said, "Can I pet it?" I said, "Sure, Ann."
Mason Funk: That's awesome. Any others?
Amy Bench: [02:15:30] I guess just following up on that, so the pictures that you have are from 30 years ago, so she must be important to you in your life because she's in your living room. What lasting impression did she leave on you?
Mason Funk: And talk to me please.
Louise Young: [02:16:00] I think the lasting impression I have of Ann Richards is one of a strong Texas woman. She is the epitome of a strong Texas woman. The kind of woman that caused Texas to be one of the first to sign the Equal Rights Amendment. That pioneering spirit lived in Ann Richards. She was one of a kind and I am just so glad that she did get to serve as Governor. One other thought that I have, and it's in a way in response to your question about, "What is different about LGBT communities today than 50 or 60 years ago?". I believe it is the visibility that we have from thousands and thousands of people who are willing to be out. I thought that I would never live to see two things, gay marriage, and a gay commercial on television. I really didn't think it was going to happen. Now, I've seen them both. I can't tell you what enormous progress we have to have made to appear in a television commercial.
That's going to rocket our visibility to the non LGBTQ community.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:18:30] I think it also validates for all of our people in our community that it's okay. Just like when Diane Carol ended up making the first commercial with a Black person and it was on television, Oxydol.
Louise Young: [02:19:00] My friend from so many years ago, my African American friend, good friend from high school said she'll never forget the night she and her family were watching TV and there was an Oxydol commercial with a Black person. She said she and her family were dumbfounded, they never thought they would see that on television. Likewise, I thought I never would. So, I don't know, I'm pretty excited about... I'm excited about the future. I'm grateful that I have lived long enough to see some of these changes like our being able to be married, I never thought we would have-
Vivienne Armstrong: Especially in Texas, we thought we'd be the last.
Louise Young: Well, we-
Vivienne Armstrong: Well, we were the last cohort, but I mean we made it.
Louise Young: [02:20:00] I'll tell you, having been an activist all these years, I think the thing that we as first wave activist, after Stonewall, the best thing we can do for the new activists of today, the young LGBTQ people, is emphasize to them that it all can be lost and that you cannot be complacent. You have to be ready to-
Vivienne Armstrong: Speak up.
Louise Young: [02:20:30] Fight for what you believe in. That everything isn't hunky dory right now. Maybe we still have a place in the community to teach some of the skills that got us to where we are because I think we may be needing those.
Mason Funk: Dust them off again.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:21:00] You know, I think that for a lot of people ... I didn't realize when I was growing up that World War II had just happened right before I was born. I was 10 years old and you watch these war movies and you just don't have that sense of time, you have to be older. Then when you really start knowing and studying how openly gay everybody was in Berlin, prior to the rise of the Third Reich, look what happened there. We have every reason to say like, "Whoa, we don't want that to happen again."
Louise Young: [02:21:30] That's why one of the three people I named as ones I would like to talk about was Gilbert Baker. Gilbert Baker designed the first rainbow flag and that's our symbol and having an iconic symbol is so important for our community. We need to wave those flags high and proud.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. I really... I normally have a set of final questions, but we've already actually covered them. There's one final question, which is self serving, it's in the interest of this project OUTWORDS. You've touched on this, but what do you see as the importance of a project like OUTWORDS? And if you could mention OUTWORDS in your answer.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:22:30] Wow, see I bought into the whole concept of OUTWORDS right from the beginning because I really do believe that you do repeat history if you don't know what happened. To hear the voices of experience from people who have been through all this, nearly 50 years of the movement, for us and what it was like before. It's so very important for us to preserve that like OUTWORDS says in the trailer to begin with for the project is that there are other ethnicities, the Jewish folks for the Holocaust and for Blacks and other cultures. You need to have that history. Since we don't have quite the same kind of familial descendancy it's even more important for us because you're not necessarily going to learn it in your home. To have OUTWORDS be available for young people. When I just graduated from high school, I had to go to the reference counter to be able to get a book to try to find out who I was.
There certainly wasn't any history in there and the first novels that you read were so dark, it made you depressed. OUTWORDS is a really positive thing that people have that's available and I just love the concept.
Louise Young: [02:24:00] I think OUTWORDS has come along at just the right time. There isn't a better time for OUTWORDS to have emerged as an important and essential project to inform and inspire the next generation of activists because quite frankly, as things get better, young people tend to turn their eyes to other things. We live in a time where our rights are covered by a very thin patina of protection and young people need to know what has happened in the past in order for them to prepare themselves for times after we are gone. OUTWORDS is capturing that and it is an important project that should be supported and embraced and listened to.
Mason Funk: Well, thank you. Thank you both very much. Is there anything essential that we have not talked about? I know there's many important things we have not talked about.
Mason Funk: We covered it as well as we could?
Vivienne Armstrong: Well as we could.
Louise Young: I think we did.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:26:00] I mean, yeah.
Mason Funk: Do we need to roll anymore room tone or are we good?
Amy Bench: I hear like a fan on, I don't know, is that the air conditioner?
Vivienne Armstrong: No, it's off.
Amy Bench: Can you tell me about your wedding day or is that?
Vivienne Armstrong: Our wedding day?
Vivienne Armstrong: Actually, what I could say to you, which ones? Because we had-
Mason Funk: Talk to me now.
Vivienne Armstrong: [02:26:30] Yeah, we had a civil union in Vermont in 2000, July of 2000. That wasn't a wedding, but it was a legal relationship. We moved to Vermont a year later to enjoy it for two years. In 2008 when California had the marriage was available for that six month period, we'd usually go out to California and visit with my sister and her family. During that time period in the summer and she said, "Well, aren't you going to get married? You know, you can." There's a little pressure there from my sisters to do that, the nieces and nephews. The thing it was is like, "Well, then what are your colors?" I'm like, "Oh, my god. Nothing like pressure."
[02:27:30] We had a really good time planning that. We ended up instead of going to the city in San Francisco, we went to San Mateo County Courthouse and I loved it because you change your name and get a marriage license all at the same window. It was just perfect. They had a room and it actually could be broadcast through the internet, so we had friends who watched it in Vermont and here on the internet with the service with the JP and our family. My sister's boyfriend at the time had a 1939 Cadillac so we rode in style to and from. We partied, dined, and everything. We had a good time. Then you can tell about the other marriage that we had.
Louise Young: [02:28:30] It was my 50th high school reunion and we already were married, but this was in Ada, Oklahoma and Oklahoma is in a different federal court district than Texas. Oklahoma's district is headquartered in Denver. The week before we went to my 50th high school reunion, they issued their edict that there would be same sex marriages in the states that were in their district and Oklahoma was one. Ada, Oklahoma was the first place we lived together after we decided to share our lives. We would've married in the fall of 1971, had we had the ability to do so. It was for that reason, that we wanted to get married in Oklahoma. One of my high school classmates was the county judge and he married us before the Saturday night barbecue and it was wonderful. About 80 of my classmates were there and everybody attended and had a wonderful time.
[02:30:00] One of the classmates had brought his guitar and played an old Beatles' love song. It was a wonderful, wonderful, heart warming occasion that meant so much to Viv and particularly to me since it's my home town, that this is where we would've been married all those years ago.
Vivienne Armstrong: These are people that she's gone from the first grade all the way through school with.
Louise Young: Anyway-
Vivienne Armstrong: They adopted me.
Louise Young: Those are our two marriages.
Mason Funk: [02:30:30] That reminds of a story though. That was a story that was in your questionnaire that I think is really wonderful, which is the final chapter of your relationship with East Central and the fact that they... Tell us the story of them asking you, 30 years after firing you, for a contribution.
Louise Young: [02:31:00] A representative from the East Central Foundation came to Dallas to visit alums and of course, seeking funds. They wondered if... we went out to dinner and the woman said, "Would you like to make a substantial contribution?" I said, "Well, you really need to hear a story." So, I told her the story of my contract not being renewed. She said, "Isn't it time to bury the hatchet? It had been 30 years." Viv and I looked at each other and we said, "Well, maybe it is." We said we wanted something that would move the East Central and the aid to community forward in terms of their ability to embrace different people. We established the Louise Young Diversity Lecture Series. We funded it and we have had a holocaust survivor, a Tuskegee airman, a Navajo code talker. We had-
Vivienne Armstrong: What do you call Jane Elliott?
Louise Young: [02:32:30] Jane Elliott who was the woman, the school teacher who devised the Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes Project to try to teach her grade school students in Iowa and racial discrimination. We've just had a lot of good speakers. They did invite me to be the first speaker and my talk was "LGBT rights, why talk about it?" Other than that, it's all been other diversities. Now, I think that this next Spring, we're going to have a program on transgender because it has become a diversity issue of the day. You know, it's free, it's open, and one of the, I think, most touching things was this last year, which is the last year of the current, well of the past president of East Central. After the program, he usually said some closing remarks, but his closing remarks were about our ability to forgive.
[02:34:00] Forgive East Central for not renewing my contract and that it's a lesson to everybody in the values of redemption and forgiveness. It was very, very touching and I thought to myself, "This is how you change hearts and minds. This is how you change hearts and minds."
Mason Funk: I love that story. When I first read your account and when the woman said, "Isn't it time to bury the hatchet?", my first reaction was, "No!" I really love that you overcame that and actually said, "You know, maybe she's right."
Louise Young: [02:35:00] It really was because it wasn't doing me any good to stay bitter. I mean, this diversity lecture has been terrific.
Mason Funk: Yeah, that never would've happened.
Louise Young: I'm going to give you a copy of one of the brochures.
Mason Funk: So, we can cut? I think we're done right?

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Amy Bench
Date: June 06, 2017
Location: Home Of Vivienne Armstrong and Louise Young, Dallas, TX